July 27, 2007
Domestic violence – we can’t go on like this!


Every citizen concerned about life, limb and the pursuit of happiness, not to mention the fundamental rights of women and children, can only come to the conclusion that “We can’t go on like this”.{{more}}

We speak here about the alarming spate of brutal killings of women in our society in circumstances which appear to be domestically related. So far for the year, seven women have met tragic deaths in this way, a total more than the number of such victims in the past three years, combined. Worse, some of these murders have occurred in the full view of the children of the deceased.

This ought to send our sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists and whatever other “-ists” we have scurrying into action, delving into causes and trying to come up with solutions. However this must not be an excuse for the rest of us to absolve ourselves of responsibility for participating in the process, we are all involved in one way or another. Our society is too small, too fragile, to permit this monster to continue to gnaw away at our social fabric.

One problem we as citizens have in trying to agree on remedial actions lies in the modern trend among legal personnel, sociologists, human rights and gender activists to adopt what is termed as a more “enlightened” approach to these problems. Thus there is a campaign against capital punishment (a normal gut reaction of ordinary citizens to brutal murders) on the grounds that it constitutes “cruel and inhuman punishment”.

There is also the frowning on more traditional solutions to cases of domestic violence because of what is considered to be a danger of “blaming the victim”. Yet at the risk of all these, and mindful of their considerations, we cannot afford to remain silent or idle. Our voices must be raised to send a strong message to the justice system, a message of ZERO TOLERANCE for domestic abuse. Our law-enforcement and judicial officers need to let that be absolutely clear. In this too, appropriate training of police officers to handle cases of domestic violence must be given priority. Not too long ago a joint programme was embarked upon by CAFRA (the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action) and the local constabulary. Government must provide solid support for the continuation of such initiatives.

As a society, we have the collective responsibility to find out why this destructive trend has swollen to such frightening proportions, to institute programmes to reduce drastically such incidents, to give support to noble efforts such as those by Marion House to provide shelter and support to women seeking to get out of abusive domestic situations (we would be shocked to find out how many are faced with this unfortunate predicament). When a mother dies in such a vicious manner as Ann-Marie Ledger did, the family suffers greatly. It is in danger of falling apart. In the most recent incident, nine children were left motherless, some of them experiencing the trauma of witnessing the hacking. When will it stop?

Our women too need to be more supportive of each other. There is a strong tendency on hearing of domestic abuse to automatically apportion blame to the woman (“she too bad”). We need to encourage our women to report cases of abuse, to stand up to the cowardly brutes and to trust their instincts to get out of bad situations as soon as possible. Society needs to make it possible for would-be victims to have choices. Instituting programmes to teach conflict resolution and to instil restraint are necessary, but they do not always work on older, potential perpetrators of such crimes.

Above all, there is an alarming tendency among some young women to accept what they might consider as “mild cases”, a slap from a boyfriend for instance. These can, and often do, lead to the road of no return and eventual tragedy. They are not signs of love, but acts of abuse. We must make them all unacceptable.